Organs affected in rheumatoid arthritis
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that affects internal organs as well as joints.
Rheumatoid vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) is a serious , potentially life-threatening complication of RA. It can lead to skin ulcerations and infections, stomach ulcers, and nerve damage that cause pain, numbness, tingling, and loss of function. Vasculitis may also affect the brain, nerves, and heart, which can cause stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.
RA may cause inflammation of the the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis) and cause other heart complications. Inflammation of heart muscle, called myocarditis, can also develop. Both of these conditions can lead to congestive heart failure.
The treatments for RA can also cause serious side effects. Examples include the myriad of side effects associated with corticosteroids, the liver and bone marrow complications associated with methotrexate, and the multiple issues associated with biologic therapy.
Specific Organs Affected by RA
Rheumatoid nodules in 50% of RA patients; dermal vasculitic ulcers
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, episcleritis, scleritis
Interstitial lung disease
Pericardial effusion present in almost 50% of patients.
Results from cervical spine instability, peripheral nerve entrapment, and vasculitis resulting in mononeuritis multiplex.A life-threatening joint complication can occur when the cervical spine becomes unstable as a result of RA.
Hypochromatic, microcytic anemia with low serum ferritin and low or normal iron-binding capacity almost universal in patients with active RA.
A particularly severe form of rheumatoid arthritis, Felty's syndrome, can cause enlarged spleen and low white blood cell counts.
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